After six straight weeks of deficient rains, the southwest monsoon has revived over parts of central and northwest India, where showers have been the scantiest.
Rains have improved consistently since July 13, narrowing the deficiency for the week ended July 15 to 15%, from 41% the previous week. The monsoon, however, continues to be 36% below average overall.
The late pick-up has fuelled hopes of bridging a worrying shortfall in showers, vital for the economy and crucial for farmers to make up for lost sowing opportunities.
Robust showers over the course of next week will help boost sowing of key summer crops such as rice, cotton, pulses, oilseeds, which are currently at half of last year’s acreage. Adequate acreage is critical for a good harvest, which can keep a lid on prices that eased to a four-month low of 5.43% in June.
“The monsoon has revived and the active phase will last for the next 10 days,” said BP Yadav, senior forecaster at the India Meteorological department.
The “active phase” has arrived after a month’s delay and widespread rains are expected in most parts, including Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, over the next 10 days, according to a scientific assessment by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
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The recovery comes amid signs of an easing El Nino, a rain-disrupting weather pattern marked by warming of the Pacific. “While the majority of climate models suggest El Niño remains likely for the spring of 2014, most have eased their predicted strength,” a revised update by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
The rains have picked up just in time for the crucial crop-sowing window in the first two weeks of July. Poor rains threatened to trim India’s food output with a massive deficit in the plantantion of crops. Planting of paddy until July 1 was down 6.6% at 4.13 million hectares from a year ago, as pulses and cotton sowing lagged 18.4% and 22.2% respectively.